The Cambridge dictionary describes a sewing machine as:
“A machine that is used for joining together pieces of cloth, with a needle that is operated either by turning a handle or by electricity’”
The sewing machine is a piece of equipment that many of us take for granted these days. A sewing machine is something that we have all grown up with, and for many of us it is something that our mothers used to make most of our clothing as youngsters (aside from the gorgeous hand knitted jumpers of course) But do any of us really know who Invented the sewing machine? What the first sewing machine was or when the sewing machine was invented? In this post, we will explore all of these questions and more to find out everything we don’t know about the history of the sewing machine.
Buying a new sewing machine can be a very overwhelming experience. When looking for a new machine it feels like there is an endless amount of machines with an endless amount of features, functions and technical names. But what do you really want to be looking for when buying a new sewing machine? When looking for a new sewing machine there are 10 things you should consider before taking the plunge and spending up large (or small).
Sewing machines come in a very wide range of prices, from under $100 all the way up to $10,000+.
But what are the main differences in the different price groups of sewing machines?
You can break down the costs of machines into 4 main groups:
When you are first starting out using sewing machines it is important that you should not jump right into a machine with lots of different features and functions. When buying a beginners sewing machine there are 4 main factors you should take into account before making your purchase:
I have picked out what sewing machines I think will be the best for beginners and put them through their paces to give an honest review.
Sewing machines are like everything else in life these days, it is getting increasingly hard to find one that is not computerized one way or another. When buying a computerized sewing machine there are a few things that you need to keep in mind:
I have picked out top 5 computerized sewing machines and put them through their paces to give an honest review of each machine and demanded what one would be best for you! Check out my thoughts on the best computerized sewing machines and see what one is best for you!
Before sewing machines, there was only one option, Sewing by hand. Sewing came many many years before electricity and all the other modern technology we know of today. It is believed that sewing has been around for approximately 20,000 years and can be traced back as far as the last ice age. Ancient needles have been discovered by archaeologists crafted from bone, these bone needles also include an eye hole. These original needles were used to sew together furs and skins used for warmth.
Fast forward 1500 years and we find ourselves in the 1790’s. It was then British inventor Thomas Saint invented the first modern sewing machine. His machine was designed to sew canvas and leather, usually to make boots. The machine was very basic and used only a single thread which formed a chain stitch. An awl was used in place of the traditional needle we know today to pierce a hole through the material being sewed. A different mechanism dropped the thread over the hole left by the awl, this was then picked up by a rod similar to a needle with a fork at one end and carried through to the underside of the material. Then a hook caught the thread and placed it forward where the next stitch would be placed. When the cycle was repeated more than one time, a loop would be formed on the underside of the material, forming the ‘chain stitch’.
In the mid 1830’s a French tailor by the name of Barthelemy Thimonnier patented the very first practical sewing machine. This machine used a hook tipped needle very similar to an embroidery needle we use today. The needle was forced down via a foot treadle connected by cord and returned to the original position by a spring. Although it was a more efficient machine and easier to use machine it has the same chain stitch method as the earlier machine from Thomas Saint.
1834 is when we were first introduced to the first double thread sewing machine by a man from New York by the name of Walker Hunt. The ‘Yankee mechanical genius’ as he was sometimes referred to as was also the inventor of the safety pin in 1849. Hunts machine used a reciprocating eye pointed needle. This needle worked together with a shuttle which carried the secondary needle which would come together to make an interlocked stitch – much like the modern machines we see today.
1846 was an important year for the sewing machine. This is the year that a woman from Massachusetts by the name of Elias Howe would create a sewing machine that would rival hand sewing. Howes machine featured an eye pointed needle with a groove and shuttle. It was essentially a lock stitch machine that could only sew a straight seam, only as long as the basing plate. Although there was a lot of marketing attempts in the United States, Howe couldn’t get the machine to take off, so headed to England to further develop the machine towards corset makers. When Howe returned to the US sewing machines were being sold for various different manufacturers using ideas from her 1846 patent.
Issac M Singer is a name that many of us will find familiar. Since 1860 Singer is one of the worlds largest and most well known sewing machine manufacturers. Singer patented the very first rigid arm sewing machine. Prior to this design, all sewing machines were designed with an overhanging arm. The needle would be held by the hanging arm and moved with it. Singers design also included a support table which supported the material being sewed and a vertical presser foot which held the cloth down against the upward movement of the needle. The presser foot and vertical needle holding bar was held in the correct position by a fixed arm. Where Singers design was a real improvement on any of the machines available was the foot treadle table in place of the more traditional hand crank. The design of Singers machine was based on earlier work of Howes, which Howe later sued Singer for. An agreement was arranged for Singer to pay royalties to Howe for the patent infringement.
Around the late 1870’s patents on the early sewing machines started to expire, this meant that the fundamental key features of the sewing machine where no longer owned by anyone. This opened the door to new manufacturers who took advantage and started developing their own machines.
The early 20th century was an interesting time for sewing machine manufacturing. Development of new technical features slowed right down, however, the way that machines were sold, marketed and obtained were very different. Mail order houses were all the rage and Sears Roebuck and Montgomery took advantage of this. Machines were readily available in catalogs and could be purchased for as little as $10 in 1902.
After World War I sewing machine sales started to decline, this was mainly because ready made clothes were readily available at a low price. Singer was then available at a discounted price to schools, and sewing manuals were given out for free to the school children, specifically the girls. The theory behind this was “If a girl learned to sew on a Singer, she would eventually buy one.”
The earliest versions of a portable sewing machine were introduced in the early 1920’s. These machines were nothing like the portable machines we know and love today. The machines were heavy, expensive and fairly hard to actually move around anywhere. This style of machine did not really take off until later in the 1930’s. Nowadays the portable sewing machine is something that early every seamstress needs to have in her arsenal of machines!
The depression and the crash in 1929 was an important time in sewing machine industries history. There was not a lot of money to go around so housewives around the country demanded more out of their machines at a lower, affordable price. This point in time is when we see the first more portable, lightweight electric machine design that we are familiar with today. This dramatically helped popularize sewing and the sales of sewing machines were on the rise again, housewives countrywide were sewing everything from children’s school clothes to Sunday church clothes.
During the second world war production of the sewing machine ground to a halt. This is because the skilled workers who produced the machines were utilized to create machinery for war.
The 70’s & 80s saw a huge rise in automatic sewing machine production. The home sewing machine gave the home seamstress limitless options to create from home. This continued into the 2000’s.